Washington, Seoul talk reunion relief on sanctions

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Washington, Seoul talk reunion relief on sanctions

South Korea and the United States made progress in consultations Friday on a temporary sanctions waiver for planned video reunions of separated Korean families, which would allow Seoul to send equipment to the communist neighbor, a diplomatic source has said.

The two sides held their first “working group” session on pending issues related to North Korea since the unsuccessful Hanoi summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

In the meeting held in Washington on Thursday, South Korea was represented by Rhee Dong-yeol, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Korean Peninsula peace regime bureau. His counterpart was Alex Wong, deputy assistant secretary of state for North Korea.

Last week, a sanctions panel of the United Nations Security Council granted an exemption for sanctions on the shipment of image-sending equipment to North Korea for video reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. The United States had its own domestic procedures left to approve the waiver.

“[The South Korean government] has become able to push for video reunions in earnest, as consultations [with the United States] on the issue of taking materials for video reunions to North Korea have been completed,” the source said.

The allies also discussed a sanctions waiver for goods to be used for an inter-Korean project to excavate historic relics in the Manwoldae site in the North’s border town of Kaesong, the source added. Seoul plans to apply for the UN committee’s approval for the move as well.

In a two-paragraph press release on the results of the working group meeting, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not mention the specific sanctions issues. The two sides discussed various pending issues including post-Hanoi summit steps, inter-Korean cooperation and South Korea-U.S. relations, it said.

“Under the shared goal of complete denuclearization, the two sides will closely consult on ways to develop South-North relations in the direction of contributing to the resumption of North Korea-U.S. negotiations,” the ministry added.

During a press briefing, State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said, “[The two sides have] shared updates on efforts to achieve our shared goal of final, fully verified denuclearization, including through the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.”

He added, “[They have] reaffirmed their commitment to continue regularly hosting these consultations and coordinations as alliance partners.”

In New York, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun held meetings with members of the UN Security Council to provide a briefing on the Hanoi talks.

The summit ended without an agreement due to differences over the scope of North Korea’s denuclearization and sanctions relief from the United States.

Earlier this week, Biegun, who is in charge of day-to-day negotiations with Pyongyang, said the United States will not remove sanctions until the process of denuclearization is complete.

South Korea has been pushing for sanctions exemptions to resume inter-Korean economic projects - mainly a joint industrial complex in Kaesong and tour programs.

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